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Hardcover John Von Neumann Book

ISBN: 0679413081

ISBN13: 9780679413080

John Von Neumann

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Presents the biography of John von Neumann, one of the greatest scientist of the century after Einstein. This book discusses Von Neumann's work in areas such as game theory, mathematics, physics, and... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

John Von Neumann

An outstanding book in all respects. Provides an inside look at what transpired in the making of the A-Bomb. Also includes numerous other contributions made by this mathematical genius.

A Touching Masterpiece for all Scholars and even any Concerned Readers

As a prodigious reader of biographies--of all sorts, but mostly those of persons of science and mathematics (probably read about a hundred)--I feel qualified to say that this biography of John von Neumann is one of the greatest written biographies available today. While the previous reviewers are completely correct in that there is little detailed technical information, the book more than compensates for this in its other aspects. The book is filled with fantastic anecdotes regarding John von Neumann's eccentricities and his extraordinary displays of his unparalleled abilities at mental calculation, problem solving, and memorization. (He was able to memorize entire book chapters verbatim and recite them 15 years later. He could easily multiply two eight digit numbers in his head. And so on...) The few stories that aren't breathtaking are downright hilarious! They often show the jovial side (and sometimes licentious side) of this man, who was one of the single greatest minds of the past millenium. I particularly recommend this book for all types of quantitative thinkers, or even scholars of any sort who wish to widen their purview of the world. Von Neumann helps to define what it means to be an exemplary scientist. Furthermore, he does a great job of showing the moral responsibilities and gentlemanly behavior required of men of his stature and fame. In the historical domain, this biography necessarily beats out most others simply von Neumann was so intimately connected with some of the big scientific and political events of the 21st century (Hungarian education and WWI, Quantum Mechanics, the A-bomb and WWII, the Digital Computer, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and the Cold War, etc.). I once was talking with a professor about von Neumann, and at a certain point he seemed to think that I thought von Neumann's work was greater than Einstein's. I quicky corrected this. However, upon reflection, I now think that while no single theory of von Neumann's is greater than Einstein's General Relativity, when their work is considered and compared as a whole, von Neumann's entire work will probably have a greater impact on the world as time progresses. The computer, for one, has affected domains of science that Einstein's work doesn't touch. Game Theory and Meterology have similar more global effects. I highly recommend this book for aspiring young scientists and students of any age. It is inspirational to see such a devoted and passionate man, and in my personal life, von Neumann's example has served as a source of considerable encouragement and as a lesson on the greatness of human potential. This book is the best place to encounter von Neumann's exemplary example.

The worldly secrets of John von Neumann

It seems that as time passes and nuclear secrets are gradually declassified, we get longer and longer biographies of John von Neumann. MacRae's biography is helpful, partly because it is fairly recent, and partly because MacRae gives us a glimpse of the worldly side of John von Neumann. The book captures his social style, his special expertise at bluffing, his sense of academic showmanship, his political power -- and shows how adroitly he used that power and his own mystique to push through his technical insights and decisions. Von Neumann was a trained chemical engineer. Although chemistry is usually remarked as the slightest of his credentials, he knew it and used it. This book includes the story of how he applied mathematics and chemistry to the development, delivery and control of explosive weapons - first chemical, and then nuclear. Von Neumann's work on explosives is a common thread that runs through his work and pulls together many of his interests that - seen in isolation - seem amazingly disparate. His interests in computers, aerodynamics, parlour game theory and even meteorology were all rooted in or entrained by his fascination with explosive weapons. (For a thermonuclear weapon, for example, the weather is a delivery system for fallout.) In 1938, von Neumann first became a consultant to the United States military, working at the Aberdeen proving grounds in Maryland. He began by improving the aim of very large guns with explosive shells. It was a surprisingly complicated business because it involved winds aloft, turbulent flow, impacts, and expanding shock fronts of explosive charges. It was on one of his frequent trips to Aberdeen that he encountered one of the University of Pennsylvania engineers working on ENIAC. Von Neumann was unsatisfied with the analog computers then used for weapons work, and plunged into the problem of improving the nascent digital machine. Ultimately he created a digital computer at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton. His purpose in building this particular machine was to use it to complete the design of the hydrogen bomb. After the war began, von Neumann was sent to England to study the damage inflicted by German bombs during the blitz. He noticed the German bombs were not completely effective because they buried themselves before exploding. Von Neumann used this insight to invent the "air burst" explosive. Thereafter, allied bombs worldwide were fused to go off before they hit the ground. The technique vastly improved their destructive power. Hiroshima was an air burst. At Nagasaki, the bomb was an implosion weapon characterized at Los Alamos as "von Neumann's bomb" because of the implosive detonator he helped develop for it. MacRae evidently admires von Neumann's accomplishments as a weaponeer, and as a political advocate of weapons development, but he does not quite convey von Neumann's personal sophistication and sense of scientific inqu

The Influential Man of the 2oth Century

This reissue of the original Pantheon book first published in 1992 is long overdue. John von Neuman is often considered the contemporary, theoretical scientist most highly regarded after Einstein. Nobel laureats routinely turned to this man for assistance with complex problems they couldn't resolve. "When scientific groups at Los Alamos and elsewhere heard von Neuman was coming, 'they would set up all of their advanced mathmatical problems like ducks in a shooting gallery. Then he would arrive and systematically topple them over.'" This biography is a rich, well researched, and readable portrait. This is not a surprize as the author, Norman Macrae, was the principal editor of the "Economist" for over twenty years. Macrae gives insights and feeling for a man who could multiply eight figure numbers by eight figure numbers in his head [!], quote verbatim from "Tale of Two Cities" and the "Encyclopedia" and write and fluently speak Latin, Greek, German, Hungarian, French, English and some Italian. All this from a man "with effortless wit" and a vast recollection of "risque" stories. It will be subsequent generations that thank Norman Macrae for this spendid biography of the man who pioneered or participated in the major scientific and political events of this past century. John von Neuman not only advised politicians in the Western World on victorious strategy in the Cold War, he made significant contributions to economic theory, game theory, artificial intelligence, meterology, nuclear physics, and mathematics. Bravo for a book thirty years in the making and eight years out of print.

An important book about one of the century's major minds.

John Von Neumann's incredible contributions to a vast array of fields are often overlooked and he is identified strictly with respect to one or two (game theory, the computer, and the development of nuclear weapons). But Von Neumman's contributions spawned such fields as mathematical economics and artifical intelligence as well as many new kinds of mathematics. The only thing lacking in this book is more mathematical detail about his work.
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